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The Top Donors For McCaskill, Hawley In Contentious U.S. Senate Race

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3
Senator Claire McCaskill / Flickr - CC

Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has a clear fundraising edge over her Republican opponent, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, in her re-election race — with about a month left before the Nov. 6 midterm.

McCaskill brought in $22,785,442, as of the July 18 report to the Federal Election Committee, or FEC. In contrast, Hawley had raised $5,320,513.

While having more in the coffers isn’t an indication of who will win, it does matter, according to Beth Vonnahme, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“Money is critical to any race, and it’s incredibly important to this particular race, because McCaskill is facing more hurdles than other Senate candidates. She’s contesting a state that (President) Donald Trump won by a huge margin, and she’s facing an electorate that’s increasingly Republican.”

Some of the largest totals for either candidate came from joint fundraising committees, which allow donors to write larger single checks, the proceeds of which are split among multiple entities. The maximum donation amount is $2,700 for individual contributions to a candidate committee (which applies separately for each election), $10,000 to state party committees and $39,000 to national party committees (including separately for House and Senate campaign committees).

The largest single contributions came from around the country, including Chicago investor Dan Tierney, Utah venture capitalist Ryan Smith and Hollywood — Star Wars director J.J. Abrams, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and longtime moviemaker Steven Spielberg.

Donations to the McCaskill 2018 Victory Committee are doled out among McCaskill for Missouri, the senator’s primary campaign fund; the Missouri Democratic State Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Several Missouri business leaders who have strong influence in state politics were at the top of Hawley’s donors: retired investor Rex Sinquefield of Springfield and wife Jeanne Sinquefield, TAMKO President and CEO David Humphreys of Joplin and Emerson Electric CEO David Farr. Fifteen people also gave $25,000, including Dobbs Tire and Auto Centers CEO David Dobbs and Hunter Engineering Stephen Bauer of St. Louis. 

Proceeds from the Hawley Win Fund are split among Josh Hawley For Senate, his primary campaign committee; the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senate Committee.

‘Dark money’ influence

Vonnahme points to another factor in the race: the involvement of outside interest groups, where the gap between the two sides is much closer. Some of those groups are often called “dark money” because they don’t have to reveal their list of donors. McCaskill has criticized the presence of dark money in the race, even as some of those groups have spent millions on her behalf.

The Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks ad spending, found that more than half of the ad spending in the race is from outside interest groups, with Republican groups are among the leaders in ad spending since Labor Day.

“I would say outside spending groups that have no connection to the candidates or the parties for that matter are probably having the greatest effect,” Vonnahme said.

The Center for Responsive Politics found outside groups like the Senate Leadership Fund and Americans for Prosperity have spent $16,911,717 targeting McCaskill. Conversely, groups like the Senate Majority PAC and Majority Forward have spent $14,953,649 targeting Hawley.

Dark money groups will be now be required to identify their donors over the next few weeks before the midterms, due to a September Supreme Court ruling.

As for the campaign committees themselves, the largest donations for McCaskill for Senate came from Anne Bedwinek of Kirkwood for $12,000 and for Josh Hawley for Senate, Stanley Crader of Marble Hill, who gave $5,800.

Craig O’Dear, an attorney from Kansas City, is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent; he has raised $434,344, according to the FEC.

The next quarterly FEC reporting deadline is Oct. 15.

Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter for KCUR. Email him at samuel@kcur.org and follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews

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